Free to be you and me.There's no shortage o' Bendites who make the pilgrimage to Nevada's Burning Man Festival each summer. And those who head south for a few days of mind expansion and desert wandering during the festival likely have come across the tunes of Albino! (Note: We don't mean to scream that sentence at you, the San Francisco-based band uses the exclamation point in their official title.) And, for all those who shy away from the Burning Man scene, Albino! is bringing its world beats to the streets this spring.
The 12-piece Afrobeat ensemble frequents festivals across the country and is known for its high-energy tracks and exhilarating live shows. Albino! is currently on tour to promote the release of a new live album featuring saxophonist Karl Denson (the same Karl D who recently jammed in Bend with the Greyboy Allstars).
Live With Karl Denson features tracks from a set recorded in front of a sellout crowd at San Francisco's Great American Music Hall in November 2007. Denson and Albino! met up last summer at the Bobolink Music Festival. During the band's set at Bobolink, Denson jumped on stage and started playing with the band.
"Working with Karl was amazing," says vocalist Michael Bello. "His heart is beautiful, and his musicality is top notch."
Although Albino! was happy to team with a master such as Denson, there's no shortage of talent in the group, which features several horns, strings, keyboard and a diverse percussion core. Albino! combines tightly-crafted arrangements and jazz-tinged harmony with propulsive grooves.
Keeping in step with the substantive tradition that Afrobeat built during the genre's genesis in embattled areas of Southern Africa, Albino! feels it can do more than create danceable rhythms. Bello said that in contrast to Afrobeat's rebellious roots, Albino!'s music is "more (about) opening of doors for communication" than confrontation.
Its message of social change notwithstanding, the band has no problem with seeing a crowd simply jazzed by the music. At any given Albino! show one can witness children, parents and even grandparents shaking it to the mixing bowl of sound.
"It's a powerful image to see children dancing alongside their mothers and grandmothers," Bello said. "We have so much going on that anyone can find something in our show to dig on."
Albino!'s live shows provide plenty of artistic freedom as well, highlighted by the band's signature on-stage costumes, which include flashy face paints and garments that range from Rastafarian flare to Robin-Hood-style vests (as in Errol Flynn kind of Robin Hood). "It's hilarious to watch the people who haven't seen us and their reactions when we put on our costumes and make-up and start to walk around," Bello said.
And for all those who have yet to find the stamina for a stint at Burning Man, Monday night's show could provide a first chance to witness what so many go back for year after year, even if it's just a taste.
"You should look for us in the middle of a dust storm at Burning Man," Bello said. "You never know what you might find."